As rural Colorado fears being overlooked in 2020 census, some question spending money on outreach |

As rural Colorado fears being overlooked in 2020 census, some question spending money on outreach

A farm sits just outside the town limits of Norwood, Colorado,in San Miguel County on June 23, 2019. Colorado will spend big bucks in the next year trying to make sure people who live in rural areas are counted in the 2020 census.
William Wood / Special to the Colorado Sun

Just 33% of the households in San Miguel County that received a 2010 census questionnaire mailed it back to the federal government.

And many others never were mailed one in the first place.

In the vast majority of the county, which stretches from mountainous ski resort towns like Telluride to sparsely populated rural areas along the Utah border, residents rely on P.O. boxes, where census forms aren’t delivered. That means federal census takers must go door-to-door in an attempt to count as many people as they can — and it’s not clear how many are missed.

Some fear participation rates could get even worse in 2020, when the U.S. Census Bureau for the first time will urge residents to fill out the once-a-decade questionnaire online, instead of by mail. More than one in 10 of San Miguel County’s estimated 7,800 residents lacked high-speed internet access in 2017, according to the latest federal estimates, and the broadband gap is even greater in some surrounding areas. And then there’s the pending court case about whether to allow a citizenship question.

Over the next year, the state of Colorado will spend $6 million trying to persuade hard-to-count residents to participate in the next federal census, which begins April 1, 2020. The money will be distributed through an outreach grant program approved in the 2019 legislative session that will allow local governments, nonprofits and certain other organizations to apply for funding.

Read the full story on The Colorado Sun.

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